PREMIUM TIMES speaks to some individuals fingered in Newswire’s report, including Messrs Ezeugo and Effiong.
By Alfred Olufemi
A Superintendent of Police, Samuel Ezeugo, and a civil servant, Kufre Effiong, have explained their links to Frank Akpan, the suspected killer of the slain job-seeker, Iniubong Umoren.
According to records obtained from his mobile network provider published Monday by Newswire, Mr Akpan, shortly before his arrest, had telephone conversations with Messrs Ezeugo and Effiong, a revelation that has raised suspicion of conspiracy.
Mr Ezeugo heads the police division that supervised the arrest of Mr Akpan while Mr Effiong, a civil servant at the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta, is a close relation of the suspect.
However, in separate interviews, both men explained to this newspaper that they were only in talks with the culprit to facilitate his arrest.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how 26-year-old Ms Umoren, a fresh graduate of the University of Uyo, was found dead 48 hours after she left home to honour a job interview scheduled by Mr Akpan at a location on the outskirts of Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.
The murder suspect, who, according to the police, later confessed to being a serial rapist, confirmed raping and killing the missing lady. He also claimed he buried her in a shallow grave in his father’s compound, after raping her.
“On 30/04/2021, the Command received a report on the disappearance of the victim. Following available leads, men of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Command, led by CSP Inengiye Igosi, consolidated on the initial great progress made by the DPO Uruan, SP Samuel Ezeugo and arrested the perpetrator who confessed to have lured his victim to his house in the guise of giving her a job but ended up sexually and physically assaulting her which led to her death.
“To cover his tracks, he dragged and buried her in a shallow grave in his father’s compound,” Odiko MacDon, the Akwa Ibom Police Command spokesperson, said.
The timeline of events showed that Ms Umoren set out for the interview on April 29.
Her Lagos-based friend, Umo Uduak, who initially raised the alarm on social media, informed the Urua police division on April 29 but the operatives did not swing to action until April 30, following a 24-hour guideline. The police usually wait for 24 hours to see if people declared missing would reappear before launching a search for them.
Mr Akpan’s father was arrested on April 30 and the culprit was arrested later that day. The suspect’s arrest was made on May 1.
The Ezeugo, Effiong connection
As Nigerians continue to demand justice for the late Ms Umoren, Newswire, on Tuesday, published the call logs of Mr Akpan between April 14 and April 30.
Using open-source intelligence tools like cell site locators and true caller app, the newspaper identified some persons the suspect spoke with before his arrest, including Messrs Ezeugo and Effiong.
According to the newspaper’s analysis of the available data, Mr Akpan put a call across to Mr Effiong at noon on April 30. The latter called back shortly after the first call ended.
A few minutes after, Mr Effiong sent Mr Ezeugo’s telephone number to the culprit, who called the police officer immediately after.
The conversation between the senior police officer and Mr Akpan went on for 93 seconds. What they discussed remained unclear since Newswire said it was unable to access a recording of their conversation.
While details of their discussions remained unknown, the Newswire article suggested connivance between Messrs Akpan, Ezeugo, Effiong, and the other people who spoke with him on the telephone. The report suggested some might have colluded to kill Ms Umoren while some others might be engaged in a cover-up scheme to free the suspect.
The article also conjectured that some people who telephoned Mr Akpan or stay in locations around where Mr Effiong was as he communicated with the suspect might be connected to a human parts trafficking syndicate.
As of the time of this reporting, PREMIUM TIMES could not access the conversation records of the suspect and those he spoke with and was, therefore, unable to determine the culpability or otherwise of the individuals. In any case, call logs alone do not offer sufficient evidence upon which individuals can be accused of crimes, law enforcement veterans say.
“At 4.32 PM on April 30, Frank then makes one of the most interesting phone calls in this entire story. Truecaller pulls up the details of the recipient of the phone call with the number
+2348032939326 – one “Kufre Effiong.” Unlike the other people Frank has been known to associate with, Kufre Effiong appears to be from a different world,” Newswire reported.
“On April 30, at 4.40 PM, Frank Akpan placed a call to someone with the number +2348034386086. At this point, I trust it will not shock you to know that when I ran this number through Truecaller, the name that came up was none other than (Mr Ezeugo) …In other words, while the Akwa Ibom Police Command is releasing statements claiming to be solving a crime by arresting a suspect, the suspect was actually making telephone calls to one of the police officers who would later “arrest” him, and speaking to him for a minute and a half,” it read further.
“So putting the entire picture together, we have what appears to be a well-connected criminal gang in Akwa Ibom with links to the police and the Federal Ministry of the Niger Delta, which specialises in sourcing human organs either for the purpose of selling to the international black market or to service local politicians who believe in ritual human sacrifice,” the paper stated, tracing their address to Plot 58, G Unit, Ewet Housing Estate, the Uyo branch office of a medical NGO called the Center for Clinical Care and Research (CCCR Nigeria).
“The first is that the Uyo Branch office of an organisation which specifically offers “supply chain management of health commodities” may have been commandeered by an illegal organ trafficking ring to feed the booming global black market organ trade,” the report speculated.
Meanwhile, there was an unknown number (+2348122386922), which was more frequent in the logs but could not be traced to anyone. This unknown person contacted Mr Akpan no fewer than 12 times between April 4 and April 27, with an estimated talk time of over 192 seconds.
“Finding the individual who owns the telephone number +2348122386922 is central to unravelling the mystery of why Iniobong Umoren had to die, how many more like her have died in the past, and most importantly, who are the big fish behind the entire operation. Exactly what is going on at 58, G Unit, Ewet Housing Estate is another key question that must be answered.”
Effiong, SP Ezeugo speak
PREMIUM TIMES made efforts to speak to all the numbers extracted from the Newswire report but only five of them responded.
The number identified with the most frequent calls was amongst the telephones that could not be reached throughout Tuesday and Wednesday morning.
But of the successful five, one belonged to Nonso Obosi, another to one Blessing Godwin (an unsuspecting victim of Mr Akpan), two were traced to Mr Effiong and one to Mr Ezeugo.
Mr Obosi abruptly terminated the call after our reporter announced the intent of calling — enquiry into their relationship with the suspect.
Ms Godwin shared her near-death experience with Mr Akpan.
Also, Messrs Effiong and Ezeugo, after this reporter pressured them repeatedly, agreed to speak on their connections to the suspect.
Mr Effiong, who is a civil servant as reported by Newswire, further revealed that the suspected murderer is his relation.
“This boy is related to me in a way. He is my little cousin that did this thing and I didn’t want my hands to be connected with this,” he said, explaining the reason for not speaking up earlier.
He said he had been inundated with telephone calls from social media users who rang him on Tuesday to curse him.
Speaking further, he said he played a role in the arrest of Mr Akpan carried out on April 30.
“That boy contacted me on the 30th (of April) while in my brother’s house who is the Chairman of Uruan local government. They were all seated in his place with the DPO (Ezeugo) and DSP when the boy called, demanding for where his father was because the father had been arrested previously.”
“I told the DPO that this boy had contacted me. The DPO said we should see how we can bring him. That was exactly what I did.”
The DPO went to pick him up and handed him to the anti-kidnapping unit of the Akwa Ibom State Police Command.
“I did so, so that they can release his father to go and take drugs,” he said, justifying his call to Mr Akpan.
When asked if he knew Mr Akpan was engaged in crime since they are related, Mr Effiong said, “I don’t live with him. I don’t know anything about him. They returned to the village three years ago. So I don’t know anything. I don’t know he is into all these kinds of things.”
Pressed further on his previous conversations with the culprit, Mr Effiong said although he had following the matter on social media before the arrest of the suspect, he had not spoken to him until he (Mr Akpan) called that afternoon.
“On that day (maybe he felt running to us we would be able to assist him but unfortunately when he came around, he called when the policemen were there and I now had to bring him out. I facilitated his arrest.”
“That was why I sent him the DPO’s number. Not known to him (Frank) that the DPO was around.”
He added that he wrote a witness statement against Mr Akpan at the police headquarters in Uyo, saying the culprit had brought shame on the family and the entire village.
On his part, Mr Ezeugo defended himself, saying he had no prior knowledge of the suspect until a report was made on April 29.
“If I’m in talk with him before or after arrest, does it make any sense?”
“Who arrested the young man you are talking about? I did. If I had spoken to him before or after his arrest, does it make any sense? When you are doing an investigation, you can use any means, provided it is legally fit, to trace a suspect.”
The Divisional Police officer said he could have been accused of collusion if the suspect had absconded. “He is in custody as we speak.”
“This case was reported to me by a girl from Lagos,” Mr Ezeugo said. “I was not in the office then, so I called my boys. I told them to get information from the tracker and give us a specific address. When we got the address, we started moving there but unfortunately, the young man was not there but we met his father.
“After tracing the father’s conversation with him. We found out that the man was in contact with his son, that’s how we picked the father to my station.”
He further explained that the complainant went to the headquarters and met with the commissioner of police, who instructed the anti-kidnapping unit to take over the case.
However, he told PREMIUM TIMES that he is still following up on the case despite the fact that it has been transferred to command headquarters.
Asked if he knew Mr Effiong before now, the senior police officer did not give a definite response. “I may not know him by that name,” he said in this paper’s first interview with him.
He directed our reporter to the state command’s spokesperson, Odiko MacDon, when the question was repeated with a clearer description of Mr Effiong.
Mr MacDon, when contacted on Tuesday, said Mr Akpan is still in custody and would be arraigned when courts resume nationwide. He declined comments on Mr Akpan’s arrest and the role of Messrs Effiong and Ezeugo in it.
CCCR seeks retraction
Meanwhile, the Centre for Clinical Care and Clinical Research (CCCR) has reacted to the Newswire publication, demanding a retraction and an apology over the suggestion that it might be part of an organ trafficking syndicate.
“Since 2010, the Centre for Clinical Care and Clinical Research has provided health and social services to millions of Nigerians in over 9 states. In Akwa Ibom state, CCCRN provides health, protection, education, nutrition and household economic strengthening services (among others) to more than 100,000 orphans and vulnerable children and their households, working with the Government of Akwa Ibom state and Nine (9) reputable Community Based Organizations,” the organisation said.
It said contrary to the “Ghost NGO” claim in the publication, CCCR has a functional website http://www.cccr-nigeria.org containing its track records, physical addresses, email addresses and contact persons for its seven offices in Nigeria.
“We also have an email to which the reporter could have sent an enquiry email email@example.com. It is obvious that the “investigative reporter” conveniently ignored these opportunities to validate who we are and mischievously labelled a charitable organization with over 250 professional staff a “Ghost NGO”.
“The reporter further speculated or alleged that our Uyo Office ‘may have been commandeered by an illegal organ trafficking ring to feed the booming global black market organ trade.”
“Our business is to save lives which we have done creditably over 10 years. We also demand a retraction and apology by NewsWireNGR and Mr David Hundeyin immediately,” the statement read.